My Calamity Jane By Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows (Book Review)

Rating: ★★★★★

“Well, I figure if a girl wants to be a legend, she should just go ahead and be one.”

– Calamity Jane, My Calamity Jane

Genre: Historical Fiction (Supernatural)

Summary: “Welcome ​to 1876 and a rootin’-tootin’ America bursting with gunslingers, outlaws, and garou.

“JANE (a genuine hero-eene)
“Calamity’s her name, and garou hunting’s her game—when she’s not starring in Wild Bill’s Traveling Show, that is. She reckons that if a girl wants to be a legend, she should just go ahead and be one.

“FRANK (*wolf whistle*)
“Frank “the Pistol Prince” Butler is the Wild West’s #1 bachelor. He’s also the best sharpshooter on both sides of the Mississippi, but he’s about to meet his match. . . .

“ANNIE (get your gun!)
“Annie Oakley (yep, that Annie) is lookin’ for a job, not a romance, but she can’t deny there’s something about Frank she likes. Really likes. Still, she’s pretty sure that anything he can do, she can do better.

“A HAIRY SITUATION
“After a garou hunt goes south and Jane finds a suspicious-like bite on her arm, she turns tail for Deadwood, where there’s been talk of a garou cure. But things ain’t always what they seem—meaning the gang better hightail it after her before they’re a day late and a Jane short. ” -Goodreads

My Review

My Calamity Jane is a hilarious semi-historically accurate western with fantastic, outspoken characters and an addictive and fast-paced plot sure to keep the audience entertained. In other words, I LOVED this book. I went into the book with medium expectations. On the one hand, I have thoroughly enjoyed the authors’ other “Jane” books. On the other hand, I’m not usually a huge fan of westerns. To say the least, this novel had me pleasantly surprised.

The novel takes place in the Wild West in 1876, as America is expanding into the west coast and railroads and mining take hold of the nation. However, within the pages of My Calamity Jane, something else lurks within the “new frontier:” garou, otherwise known as werewolves. While some werewolves just live out their lives, there are other garou that are much more hostile, banding together in a Pack led by the Alpha, biting and killing anyone in their path.

The book follows three points of view: Calamity Jane, Frank Butler, and Annie Oakley. Calamity Jane is a woman outside of the restraints of her society. She wears pants instead of dresses, refuses to wear corsets, and drinks and curses as well as any man. She is independent and strong-willed, two traits that are seen as unseemly for a woman. Nevertheless, Jane wants to leave her mark on history. I think Jane is an incredibly interesting character because she not only refuses societal constraints, but also, for the majority of the novel, flat out ignores them, allowing people to assume what they will about her because she is comfortable with whom she is.d

Meanwhile, I love Annie Oakley for the opposite reasons. Annie is feisty and talented with her rifle. She is fantastic at what she does and unafraid of reaching for what her society claims are unattainable. However, even though she performs acts that are seen as unladylike, she never relents her femininity. She wears pink dresses and corsets and the latest fashions. She does her hair and hates grime and dirt. Even so, she can beat any man to the draw and is proud and talented at pretty much every single thing that she does. I like this juxtaposition because a lot of novels and movies assume that for a woman to be badass, she has to relent her femininity. She has to be more like a man to be successful in “manly” fields. Annie Oakley refutes that claim by thriving while also being irrefutably feminine.

However, there is something else I like about Annie, something that has to do with the social themes of the book. At the beginning of the novel, Annie proudly proclaims that she hates and wants to kill all garou. She thinks they are innately evil. Unfortunately, Frank Butler, her love interest in the novel, just so happens to be a garou. When she finds this out, she is forced to analyze her internalized bigotry and consider that maybe her previous ideas about garou are wrong. I think this message is incredibly important, especially in the modern-day. Annie does not stay stuck within the bubbles of her old ideas but, instead, grows with the knowledge that she gains on her adventure. She learns and adapts her principles and ideology to her new experiences, learning to be more open-minded throughout her journey.

Furthermore, I enjoyed how the novel doesn’t just focus on the white experience of the west. It also emphasizes the impact on native tribes like the Sioux and the Lakota as America broke treaty after treaty, invading their lands and vilifying natives as “savages.” It really is important for people to remember that the journey west was an illegal invasion of native land. Americans broke promise after promise as they built their small mining settlements that would one day make up the midwest and west coast. It is devastating knowing what this expansion led to; nevertheless, it is also vital to understand the impact of American expansion on native populations.

On a much more light-hearted note, I loved the chemistry and banter between the three main characters. Frank and Annie had an undeniable attraction throughout the book. Their dialogue had me laughing out loud for the majority of the story. Not to mention, the classic western plot captivated me more and more with every page. If I had anything somewhat negative to say, I would claim that the ending was a bit rushed, with plot-twist after plot twist. Nevertheless, I actually thought this added to the charm of the book, making it seem much closer to the old, classic westerns that influenced the novel.

Overall, I adored this book and I highly recommend My Calamity Jane if you are interested in badass women, fast-paced adventures, and the history of the Wild West.